Zee Zee

Zebulon Zachariah was what my beloved named him but we always called him ZZ or just Zee. He was a Lhasa Apso and the first dog we bought together as a married couple. We picked him out from one of those mall pet stores that you’re never supposed to buy from because they encourage back yard breeding but we didn’t care.

She saw him in the window and when we walked in ZZ ran up to the edge of the play area and picked her instantly. I carried him out in my field jacket and when we got home he immediately ran inside ahead of us up to the living room and pooped behind my Lazyboy to show who owned who, and that was that.

He was the smartest dog we’ve ever been owned by. It was his second day with us when he stood up and tapped on the the cabinets by the kitchen sink because his water bowl was empty. He knew exactly where water came from. House training was a breeze and he buddied up to our old Boxer Charley and they became fast friends for the few years Charley had left.

ZZ was fearless and more than once latched on to Charley’s drooping muzzle with puppy sharp teeth but Charley never whimpered or snapped. Once in awhile though when Zee would get too obstreperous Charley would take his big old paw and pin him down for a minute or two just to say, “hey kid, chillax a little.”

I was never much for dog training other than “come” “shake” and “heel” but Kitty worked with Zee and in a surprisingly short time they built a whole repertoire of tricks including roll over, butt up (sitting on his haunches), and my favorite, “Bang!” where he’d roll over on his back legs up and hold it when you shot him with your finger. Sometimes he’d walk up and just start doing tricks on his own with the intent of getting a lazy human to supply a treat. It usually worked.

With the smarts though came a brooding personality and after Charley passed ZZ withdrew into a darker place. Charley had been his pal and without him life just wasn’t as much fun. He was a good dog though and mostly gentle although Lhasas are an independent breed and need reminders once in awhile of who the alpha dog is supposed to be. He was my wife’s more than mine and I saw him jockeying with me for second in command more than once. He was fun but never easy.

He’s been gone for years but I still remember his silky soft fur and little shiny black 0-ring lips, and sometimes I’d tell him, “Put your teeth way” because he’d have one fang hanging out. Smartest dog we’ve ever owned but just like humans, too smart is not necessarily a blessing.

 

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Attrapes-moi si tu peux … Cette photo est ratée pour moi, pouvez-vous (svp) me dire si elle est aussi pour vous ? Merci.

I’m not a blogger, I’m a tourist who posts pictures of my particular journey through life and maybe writes a thought or two to go with them. What I have found to be great fun in this process is following the trails of the people who like my images back to their own pages and seeing what they have been capturing. This is from Julie in France and the softness and motion and colors of this image speak volumes to me. I hope you enjoy it as well!

Oh and a crude translation. “The joke is on me, I think I messed up this shot. Does it work for you?” And of course my answer is, “Oh yes! It is sublime and happy and warming…good job Julie!”

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Cal Buys a Camper Shell

They say you can choose your friends but not your family. This is a story about both, my delinquent friend and wild child cousin Calvin Winfield Waterman. He was adopted at 3 or 4 and my aunt told me from the very first day, the very first minute in his new home, he was knocking lamps off of tables, pulling the cat’s tail, flinging food, and just being a little terrorist. Whatever he was told, he’d do the opposite and he stayed true to that ethos his entire life. 

He was also incredibly artistic, had a heart the size of Texas, and loved animals beyond reason. A handsome lad as well, in his prime I could tie a rope around his waist and push him into a crowd of young women and when I reeled him back in there would always be 2 or 3 hanging dreamily off his arms. Women seem to love the bad boy and he was that in spades.

Rolling back the clock to a bright fall Saturday circa 1982, I got a call from Cal asking for some help picking up a camper shell. “Sure” I said and accompanied him over to the home of two of his shifty drug dealing friends, Tony and Joe. They lived in an old dilapidated farmhouse provided by their dentist mother who couldn’t stand them but lent support to keep them away from her and her things, which tended to disappear whenever they were near.

Straight and sober these were freaky dudes but no one ever saw them that way as their true pleasure in life was ingesting any illicit substance that came their way. By the gram or ounce or pound, powder, leaf, or pill, they’d suck it down and go look for more. Overconsumption begets distribution as there’s simply no other way to support habits of mass indulgence without dealing and that was the draw for Cal, he thought they were cool. I thought they were dangerous and scary.

But Cal said he needed a camper shell for his beater work truck and had heard the brothers had the perfect thing waiting for him. Oh yeah, so down the dirt road to the Freddy Krueger house we went, and bangedy bang bang on the half hinged splintery front door and here comes Tony all sweaty from lord knows what impropriety, unkempt greasy blonde hair straggling to his shoulders and yes indeed he says, the object of Cal’s desire is around back in the weeds leaning up against the weathered clapboard.

Well a hundred bucks changed hands which was a fair used price but no steal if you get my drift and we loaded it onto Cal’s beater Ford work truck, shared a perfunctory toke with Tony and his even greasier and sweatier brother Joe and headed back to our world. I’m not sure how the “hair standing up on the back of your neck” response is supposed to work but I wish it had because things went downhill quickly thereafter.

Back at the shop I helped Cal screw the shell down to the bed of the truck and had to admit it was a fine and well kept example of an aluminum camper shell. Much nicer than his truck actually, which had started life with the Colorado Dept of Transportation and now 10 years later still showed a bit of the State Orange under the 4 or 5 succeeding paint jobs, but, for 325,000 miles it still ran surprisingly well. 3 beers and a little more smoke and Cal toodled off to meet destiny and I went home to take a nap. Cal was fun, but he was exhausting.

About a week later Cal was driving through downtown Golden on some minor business in his beater Ford F-100 work truck with the rather nice aluminum camper shell when he passed the Golden Fire Department Station #1. An old red brick two story building, the Fire Chief’s office was upstairs with a window facing the street, and the Chief, who just happened to be eating his lunch and browsing through the prior year’s Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition, happened to look up from the glossy pages after taking a bite of his pickle loaf and cheese sandwich to see none other than his recently stolen camper shell on the street below fastened to the bed of some dirty rotten scoundrel’s beater Ford pickup.

Well I tell you, this raised the Chief’s hackles in such a way that only blood and hide could satisfy, so he grabbed his city issue Motorola handy talkie and called next door, yes right next door, to the Golden Chief of Police (a dear friend and golfing partner) and quickly told him what he was seeing and asked him to send a few of his boys out PRONTO to nab this blatant felon who had the audacity to not only steal his fine $300 aluminum camper shell, but to then FLAUNT it by driving by the Chief’s office in BROAD DAYLIGHT.

So there in front of the City Center, my cousin Cal was promptly pulled over at gunpoint by 3 cruisers and 6 of Golden’s finest. Cal proclaimed innocence at first but when the Fire Chief inserted his key into the back window and it worked that was all she wrote. It was not with gentle hands that he was frisked, cuffed, and hauled off the approximately 75 feet to the Golden Crowbar Hotel…which was next door to the Fire Department, but I may have mentioned that. And his truck was promptly whisked away to impound, but not before the Fire Chief had it pulled into the pumper bay of his very own Fire House, and had two of his men remove his $300 camper shell from the felonious miscreants vehicle. This normally would be considered mishandling of evidence, but the Police Chief and he were buddies, which I may have already mentioned also.

In my experience the jurisprudence system is a sticky icky thing and if there is any advice to pass on to youngsters it would certainly be, “never let them get their meat hooks into you”, as extrication from legal matters is a slow, painful and expensive process. Calvin to his credit did not rat out the brothers, possibly out of fear of being murdered and dismembered, and took the punishment without whimper or whine which in this case, being pleaded to a misdemeanor and as a first offender, would have ended with fine and court costs.

However the nice men in blue had noticed a few empty beer cans on the floorboards of Cal’s beater pickup so the Judge, who interestingly was also a golfing partner of both the Fire and Police Chief, felt a short semester in Drug and Alcohol Class would be a good thing for the young lad. And this was where my dear Cousin Cal’s penchant for burning the candle at both ends and in the middle brought him grief in the truest sense. Because after a hard day of mowing lawns which was his occupation at the time, he pulled into the parking lot of the Jefferson County Rehab Classroom and took two manly glugs from a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 and then washed it down with a fat toasty doob before striding in head held high and bellowing out “I’m here!”.

And indeed he was, because unbeknownst to him the absolute very _first_ thing they do when one reports for Drug and Alcohol class is accompany the wink wink “student” to the semi-privacy of the lavatory for an impromptu “Whiz Quiz”. A week later Calvin’s counselor Larry told him that was the most impressive Whiz Quiz Score that Larry had ever seen in his many years of counseling and that Cal’s initial 6 week set of introductory classes would be extended as long as it took to get those numbers zeroed or at least back on the chart.

It was 3 years later when Cousin Cal was finally booted from the program, not graduated exactly, but Larry was just damned well tired of seeing him and walking together hand in hand on a weekly basis to the men’s room for the Whiz Quiz which in 152 instantiations had shown clean exactly never. And for Cal’s part, figuring the initial $100 to the brothers, lawyer’s fees, the impound charge, the $500 fine, and the $3000 in testing costs, he could have skipped the trip to see the brothers and gone out and bought himself a brand new pickup truck with sparkly new camper shell and come out way ahead on the deal.

But, Cousin Cal, like the Tina Turner song, always seemed to like things rough.

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A Man Named Hoss

 

We’re all collectors of something in this life, here’s a story from my collection of friends long gone. It’s about a man named Hoss….

Scotty Sherf was born in Wheatridge Colorado in the early 1950’s. His dad was a tough guy as a youth and then joined the Marines and fought his way across the South Pacific as a grunt sharpshooter. Tough was tempered in those battles by unimaginable hardship, death, and gore turning into, well, pure meanness.

Scotty thought it was Iwo Jima that broke his dad of the last bit of human kindness, too much, too hard, too long. So Scott was raised lean and mean and love was shown with a sharp backhand or a hearty kick in the ass. It was consistent though and Scott spoke of him as Godlike and unbeatable in any arena.

His dad worked at Coors but somewhere along the line decided raising Shetland Ponies for a little side cash was the thing to do and Scott at 10 or 11 was charged with feeding and caring for what turned into a good sized herd of those ornery cantankerous hard headed mini-equines.

Along with the horseflesh came the nickname “Hoss”. He loved those little knotheads, probably because he was their King, and their care consumed his youth to the exclusion of all else, especially school and social niceties. Hoss was an animal in his own right, goodhearted but a knothead nonetheless.

There were endless stories of his exploits with these critters, all told with a gravelly voice and sparkling blue eyes that translate poorly on paper but my favorite was about a long ago afternoon feeding.

Seems Hoss and a buddy were out doing chores and carrying bucket water to a trough. One of the Shetlands came up from behind and started nipping Hoss on the shoulder. Hoss was a big old boy with a barrel chest, bulbous sinewy forearms, and meathook hands like good sized Virginia Hams.

Diplomatic discourse being the least of his skills, he hauled off with a right hook and knocked the nibbler straight to the ground. And there on buckled knees was 400 pounds of quivering pony and the friend said, “Damn Hoss, I think you killed him!” Hoss just shook his head and said, “Nah, he’ll get up in a minute”. It wasn’t the first time apparently.

Well school didn’t work out for Hoss, I think probably there were learning disabilities but he left early to forge into adulthood with only the most rudimentary scraps of book learning retained. When we’d talk I’d hear the regret in his voice and truthfully he was a throwback in this digital age and operated as a functional illiterate. But I take that as small measure of a man when it’s heart and guts that really define us.

And guts he had by the bucketful and the heart of a bull. Just a huge man with wild strawberry blonde hair, missing a couple teeth from countless brawls of his youth. He was a lowboy driver for 30 years or so, working for construction and paving outfits, hauling all manner of heavy equipment from jobsite to jobsite. It’s funny he
couldn’t read but yet knew how to operate a thousand machines. Buckets and backhoes, skidsteers and laydown machines, dozers and scrapers. If Cat or Deere or Harvester made it, he could run it.

It was backbreaking work performed in all weather and often in the dark of night. His Virginia ham hands were ripped and torn from fighting binders and load chains, building up oil and dirt stained calluses almost beyond human recognition. He’d borrow the bench grinder at my shop just to grind them down from time to time and his wife Mary finally made him start putting lotion and gloves over them because she said when he got frisky, “It was like getting beat to death with a cactus”.

Hoss finally drank himself to death a few years ago and I suppose it’s sad in a way but he lived life exactly as he wanted and he didn’t hurt anybody along the way except for maybe giving that nibbling pony a helluva headache. I can still hear that gravelly whiskey voice laying into some outlandish tale and the sparkle of those laughing blue eyes. Here’s to you pal, until we meet again.

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Notes From a Fowl Voyeur

 

There is a community pond behind our house, manmade not fancy, perhaps a half acre wide and six foot deep with some grasses and cattails around it and a simple fountain that keeps the ice from freezing completely over in the winter. A relaxing place with the sights and sounds of moving water nestled in the suburban highlands where Colorado prairie meets the foothills of the Rockies.

It’s a magnet for wildlife, both resident and tourist, furred and feathered, and a quiet wait is almost always rewarded with some sort of wild kingdom action. This series of pictures involves a seasonally mated pair of Mallard ducks and a bachelor drake who was looking for love in decidedly the wrong place.

Less than half of waterfowl mate for life, mostly Geese and Swans, and ducks hardly ever. Each season the drakes must seek out and impress a willing hen with their vim and vigor and then assuming luck and a little sparkle they mate over a period of time, eggs are laid, and the male steps back to guard the territory while the hen mothers the containerized progeny.

I’m not certain exactly where I stepped in with camera in this process, but I suspect just before eggs were laid as there was still a boatload of coitus going on. I had even taken to yelling out on occasion, “Why don’t you two get a room?” to zero effect other than eliciting a disdainful glare from my own beloved who growing up in the country found fucking ducks to be about as interesting as watching Winter wheat grow. Conversely, I as a city boy thought it was pretty cool.

One afternoon after a week or two of watching our mated pair playing pinch tickle we noticed another drake Mallard circling above and seeing the game he wanted in. With a sliding splash he landed on the pond and began paddling behind our resident mean-mugging and trash talking him and our boy was giving it back in spades. It was obvious from the tone and timbre of their throaty cat-calls that a fight was brewing.

Trying to describe the next hour or two without hyperbole is difficult but suffice it to say that murder was on both their minds. There was chasing and wing beating, knife edge aerial combat, neck biting and eye gouging, low blows high blows, truly an epic battle. Luckily for the interloper, soft feathered wings don’t make efficient clubs and to the resident’s chagrin, it’s almost impossible for one duck to drown another by holding their head underwater.

 

Each time the resident chased the bachelor into the air I’d think, “That’s it, fight over” but then a few minutes later back came the circling interloper and with a sliding splash the battle was back on. Quite a bit of it was submarine, one diving and then pulling the other down and I can only imagine what evil things their livid anger was giving vent to below the calm surface of our normally peaceful little pond.

Finally after many painful iterations the vanquished bachelor flew off once and for all and our drake immediately herded his little hen into the bushes for a quickie, because after all that’s what it was all about.

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The Leroy Harkenfarken Story

I love my job, from the minute I started in 1979 as a $4/hour driver warehouseman to now as the Great Cahuna/El Presidente for Life, never a day gone by that I haven’t look forward to coming to work. That is so lucky because a lot of us dread work. Hate it, toil for years just burning time until the day we can retire and flip the dirty so and so’s the bird on the way out the door. I’m a very lucky man and whenever I get a chance to mentor a youngun I always say, “Forget the money, find something you love, get good at it and the money will come and you’ll never regret it.”

My Uncle Sherwood started this business back in ’69, selling mining and industrial supplies out of a back alley warehouse and he was pretty good at it. A child of the Great Depression he was cheap money wise, with himself as much as others but he had a sharp mind and a good heart and we always had fun with the customers and vendors. He also had sparking blue eyes and a mischievous grin and woe to the slacker that couldn’t keep up.

He taught me about business and credit and who you could trust and who you couldn’t. And he felt strongly that a business should provide basic benefits like time off, healthcare, and bonuses to it’s employees just because it was the right thing to do. We still do that and more even though he’s been gone for 20 years.  The word corporation comes from the old Latin corpus or body, with the employees acting as the heart and mind and arms and legs of the company. To stay healthy we as individuals have to treat our body right and the same with a business, employees are its most valuable resource.

Nothing is ever perfect and when things would get a little twitchy Sherwood would tell me, “Frank, we’re all Prima Donnas” and he was right, everyone needs a little special handling from time to time. One problem we used to have was incessant unsolicited phone calls. Somebody wanting to sell us insurance, or the newspaper, or checking on the model number of our copier, or any other number of unwanted unneeded services. We’re a sales organization and I feel for the poor folks working out of boiler rooms for minimum wage trying to drum up some business but it becomes an expensive interruption when they come several times an hour.

I tried talking with my inside guys, “Just say no thanks and hang up” but they were trained to be polite and had a lot of trouble not getting hooked into long winded unproductive conversations. That’s when I invented Leroy Harkenfarken as our vice-president in charge of everything we had no interest in. And fleshing out the man, he was always on a round the world cruise and wouldn’t be back for 6 months. Amazingly this worked. The folks calling always wanted the guy in charge and it was easy to tell them “Leroy Harkenfarken” and deliver the coup de grace with “Only he is authorized to negotiate (insert whatever product or service) and he won’t be back for 6 months.”

Things have gotten better with the do not call lists and we rarely have to dust old Leroy off and trot him out anymore but he lives on in several ways. We still get mail addressed to him and UPS decided some years ago they needed a name to print on package labels so Leroy’s name adorns all our outbound UPS. We even have framed certificates of appreciation on our office walls thanking Leroy for his donations to this and that charity because Leroy is a very giving figment of our imagination.

Work is still a four letter word but if we can’t treat each other right and slip a little fun into it, what’s the point?

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Welcome Friend

If you’re here it’s because you’re curious and that makes us kindred spirits. Better to raise our heads and look around in wonder than spend our whole lives staring at the next pack mule’s twitching tail in front of us as we trudge along the well worn path. The beginning is messy and the end never a happy, but the middle, that’s the good part where we get to see and do and explore the endless beauty of this marvelous world and humongous universe beyond.

What’s my story? Just a guy who knows a little about a lot, well traveled in my youth but now with roots grown deeply into the bedrock of Colorado. I always wanted to be a writer but with the attention span of a drunken flea, stringing more than two or three paragraphs together often seems a chore. I own a small business selling mining and industrial supplies http://www.rfssupply.com/ and also a small manufacturing company http://www.whipchek.com/  There are 10 of us and the employees are my friends as well as co-workers. Together we make a good living for ourselves and I believe each would agree they treat me like gold and I respond in like and kind. It’s always so puzzling that large companies would think it good practice to abuse their best asset. 

Another passion besides work which I do truly love, is amateur photography with no particular focus on anything other than interesting subjects and lots of color. Some of my images can be found here http://www.flickr.com/photos/100516402@N08/

…and that’s enough for now, thanks for taking a moment to stop by!

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